While we will never have Meta’s (i.e. Facebook which owns Instagram) secret and coveted handbook to perfecting the algorithmic numbers and strategy, we have proven best practices that help our clients achieve their goal of reaching, growing, and converting their local audience on Instagram to real-life customers.
Let’s dive into the goods!
1. Optimize your Instagram account
First impressions are everything. Give your audience a “wow” moment with an Instagram Feed that is well-thought-out, invites them in, and leaves them wanting to explore your content and learn more about your brand. The human attention span is only diminishing, which means capturing your audience’s attention quickly (and keeping it) is crucial.
On Instagram, your bio and profile image help form the foundations of your brand identity. In 2022, this serves as another landing page for your business so it’s extremely relevant. It shows people who you are and what you sell. We recommend also using the same space to help them to understand why they should care about your business and its offering. Think of your brand’s Instagram bio as the “homepage” to your account.
It should always include:
Name and username
Best practice: make it consistent across all of your social media platforms and exact or as close as possible to your business name for search purposes
A high-resolution professional Logo or (for person-based businesses), a professional headshot should likely be your profile image
Location should be loud and proud on your Instagram bio as a local business
A short and sweet one-liner about your unique value proposition (UVP) or your “why”
Website link + CTA
The link in your bio is your one spot to drive Instagram traffic to your website or storefront, so optimizing your account with this link is essential.
Category - This should be the same category as Facebook for easy syncing across both platforms
Enable contact options - This makes it as easy as possible for people to contact your or your business
2. Showcase your Instagram everywhere
Creating visibility and awareness is one of the best ways to get discovered. If you truly want to get more Instagram followers, let people know where to find you. Add social media buttons to your email signature line, website, blog, print ads, and all marketing collateral to help build your community and promote social shares across all your networks.
3. Post content followers want
When it comes to growing your Instagram audience, creating relevant, relatable content is key. After working to understand who your audience is, the next step is establishing a defined and balanced content strategy that aligns with their wants and needs, and one that builds your authority as the expert in your space.
Don’t overlook the simplicities of quotes, educational swipe posts, and even those trendy memes as a great way to increase engagement and spark interest through teaching/advising, and entertaining. The goal here is to strike a balance between relevancy, authenticity, and achieving your goals of increasing brand awareness and gaining new customers.
Viewing your Instagram insights regularly to understand what content performs the best and why will help you get even clearer on your content strategy. More clarity and giving your audience more of what they want = winning!
4. Stay Consistent in Your Content Posting Strategy
Inconsistency = lackluster results. We all know this from the gym, right?! Same applies to social media (and if we’re being honest, to most all things in life). The worst thing you can do when trying to grow a relevant follower community is to post content at random, haphazard times. The algorithm doesn’t like this so it will decrease your reach and visibility. It also, typically results in a broken, non-cohesive content strategy that doesn’t appeal to your ideal client - especially if that ideal client is a high-net-worth female who loves the finer and more beautiful things in life, am I right?
To achieve consistency and cohesiveness, set aside time to batch out your content monthly, schedule posts through your preferred scheduling and publishing tool (we stick with the native apps whenever possible, so we recommend Meta’s Business Suite app!), keep to a regular posting schedule, and then watch ideal customers begin sticking to your content and your brand like Elmer’s on a crafty kindergartener’s fingers!
5. Find hashtags that convert
Hashtags are an integral part of a successful Instagram strategy. For years, hashtags have served as an essential tool for discovery and allowed us to extend our social reach. As a marketer, you want to build your community by gaining followers and hashtags provide just that.
Studies show that reach rate can trend upwards by 10% as the number of hashtags grows. This isn’t to say that you should include fifty hashtags by any means, but rather research and create a strategy that hones in on the important ones (i.e., most relevant to your audience and your company). As a best practice for local businesses, use relevant local hashtags. I typically implement the 80/20 rule here as in 80% relevant local hashtags that align with your ideal local customer segment(s), and then 20% relevant broad or trending hashtags as they relate to the post topic or industry.
To get started, check out hashtags for your industry and those of your competitors, trending hashtags, and leverage hashtag-generating tools when you feel it’s necessary. We recommend reevaluating your hashtags on a regular basis to ensure they are still deemed as top-performing and relevant to your mission.
Remember that hashtags go two ways on Instagram. As mentioned, we use hashtags in our posts to increase reach and discoverability but we can also follow hashtags on Instagram. This allows other user’s posts that utilize specific hashtags we follow to appear in our scrolling feed, which helps us to easily view and engage with them directly (without searching for them) -thus, we build brand awareness and community with every” like,” “comment,” and “follow” we put out there. We highly suggest you do both.
6. GeoTag Your Location
While it can be faster to target customers with paid advertisement, there are things you can do to reach your local audience via non-paid/organic social media. With algorithm changes, the use of location tagging has become a great tool to expand reach and target audiences in a particular area.
Adding a geotag to your post allows that tagged post to live in the tagged location. When other Instagram users search for the same geotag or click on it in another photo, your post will possibly be found. Studies show that Instagram posts with a geotag receive 79% more engagement than those without any.
We can also use geotagging in reverse! If there is a nearby business that shares your target market of customers, we recommend utilizing that to your advantage. Example:
Click on their location
Look for users that recently took photos here and posted about
Follow them! (in this example it’s mostly the car dealership that populates the “most recent”)
Whether your company is opening a new location, targeting a particular customer demographic on an individual post, or simply trying to expand reach to a new area, start pinning locations on your posts.
7. Follow your local competition’s followers!
This is a huge quick and shameless tip. If there’s a local business that’s a competitor, check out their Instagram account!
Study what they’re posting and see what’s working for them. It doesn’t hurt to be inspired by some of their ideas. We recommend leveraging their audience to grow your community as well. By engaging with them authentically, they are likely to follow you back since they already like the same type of business.
Go to one of their most recent posts
View those who “liked” their most recent post (this gets you directly to people/accounts who are super active on the platform)
Like, comment, and follow those accounts
This is quite possibly the most important tip, third to (1) knowing your ideal audience and (2) building a content strategy around them. Seek out your ideal customers on Instagram and engage with them. No one likes a one-way conversation! Rather, embrace the two-way conversation social media allows. In 2022, this is the only way you'll grow - especially if you’re not doing any kind of paid spend/pay-per-click campaign.
Check out, follow, and interact with the most recent posts your ideal customer is publishing. When making comments, try using a question. Your goal in this process is to get the Instagram user to click on your Instagram username to see who you are but remember with every like, comment, and follow, your business name/account appears in notifications. Taking this action, consistently and intentionally over time will grow your Instagram community and in direct alignment with your ideal local customers.
Partner With Other Local Businesses
Partnerships are powerful! Partnering with other local businesses that serve your audience (but who you aren’t in direct competition with) will benefit both parties and can help you reach a new audience. In 2022, we call this a “collab” and they are incredibly impactful in building your brand awareness with relevant local customers more quickly.
An easy way we do this for our home services clients is through project photo collabs. We mention/ list all key vendors who were involved in the project in our caption and tag them in our photo and the posts overall. These are meant to be shared by all involved, thus massively increasing reach and visibility to their audiences as well as yours. Protip: Collab strategically. Work to partner with vendors who share your ideal audience.
Run Local Ads
Running ads on search engines and social media can be an extremely effective and efficient way to reach your audience, grow a local following, and direct them to your place of purchase.
Solving the mystery of social media algorithms can seem like an uphill battle. Working on staying up to date on trends, best practices, and staying true to your brand’s niche and goals is key to long-term success.
If choosing to invest your precious time and resources in a social media marketing strategy, I can’t stress the importance of partnering with an expert who is in the nitty-gritty of these changes daily. And one that has proven client success stories.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to grow your brand awareness locally utilizing social media or other forms of content marketing, we’d love to chat through ideas, your current efforts, and determine if we’re the best team to help you achieve your goals.
SLW Media is an award-winning social media and content marketing agency led by Sara Wright. Sara and her talented team of word wizards partner with company owners in the design+build, trades, and luxury home services industries to completely remove the burden of social media and content marketing from their task list with quantifiable results – freeing up their time and resources to focus on other key profitable areas of the business.